Hard-working Idahoans earning between $38,000 and $62,000 are in the cross-hairs again. It started in the Idaho Statehouse during the 2017 legislative session with an attempted tax giveaway to the rich. Now, the federal government is working feverishly to undermine our families at the behest of wealthy shareholders and major campaign donors. The U.S. Senate is also proposing to raise health care premiums on older Idahoans. It’s an unrelenting sucker punch to Idaho’s middle class.
According to 2016 U.S. Census Bureau records, Idaho’s median household income is about $51,800 ($6,000 below the national average). The nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy breaks down the U.S. House and Senate tax bills by income level. The middle 20 percent of Idahoans — those of us who work full time — would receive 10 percent of the total tax cuts in 2018 under the House bill. Idaho’s wealthiest 20 percent would get 66 percent of the benefits.
Under the Senate bill, Idaho’s middle 20 percent would get 11 percent of the tax cuts by 2019. The wealthiest 20 percent of Idahoans would get 64 percent of the benefits. By 2027, middle-class Idahoans may actually see their taxes go up! The Senate bill also includes a provision to repeal a key piece of the Affordable Care Act that will drive premiums even higher.
The House bill is a road map for destroying working families and degrading our educational opportunities. It eliminates the deduction for student loan interest. It penalizes students who excel by taxing tuition waivers. The House bill also scraps the deduction for teachers who spend their own money on school supplies for your children.
This should sound familiar. In 2017, Idaho GOP House members proposed a bill to cut taxes on Idaho’s middle class by a whopping $32. Meanwhile, they ask you to raise your property taxes just to make sure your children’s school has a roof that doesn’t leak. Idaho’s wealthy would have gotten tax cuts of over $1,500. Idaho House Republicans are gearing up for 2018 to stick it to middle class Idahoans again with a similar tax bill.
These giveaways create economic instability and threaten opportunity for our kids and grandkids. Don’t believe that cutting the corporate tax rate will spur hiring and capital investment. Company leaders don’t even believe it. Chief White House Economic Adviser Gary Cohn asked a roomful of CEOs whether they intended to increase capital investment if the federal tax plan passed. According to a CNBC headline, Cohn got “crickets.” In other words, virtually none of the CEOs indicated they would.
This shouldn’t be surprising. America’s corporations have been logging record profits for years. Shareholders benefit, not workers. Just last month, Wal-Mart announced it would spend $20 billion buying back its own stock. That’s great if you own Wal-Mart shares. It does nothing if you’re looking for work. Most politicians answer to their “shareholders” too. Corporations and special interests hold most of their stock. We saw that in Idaho this summer when our Secretary of State Lawerence Denney spoke indifferently about corporations buying legislators. They are not interested in providing opportunity for those of us who work hard. They’re only trying to please their “shareholders.”
If you’re tired of being sucker-punched, call your congressmen and senators and tell them to stop holding your arms back: Sen. Mike Crapo: 202-224-6142; Sen. Jim Risch: 202-224-2752; Rep. Raul Labrador: 202-225-6611; Rep. Mike Simpson: 202-225-5531.
Rep. Mat Erpelding is the Democratic leader in the Idaho House of Representatives. He is serving his third term representing District 19.